1975 Introducing Cued Speech
Devised in 1966 by Dr R Orin Cornett, a former maths and physics professor, word of Cued Speech's effectiveness spread fast. There are many ways that Cued Speech can be used to help babies, children and adults recognise and understand spoken language more fluently, both in the home and classroom, whether or not they have learning, hearing or speech difficulties.
Cued Speech uses eight hand shapes in four different positions near the mouth to clarify the lip patterns of normal speech. The basic techniques can be learned in around 20 hours and research has shown that through careful teaching and practice, Cued Speech can allow up to 96% of spoken language to be lip-read accurately.
A teacher named June Dixon-Millar first came across the technique in 1970 while teaching the children of Winifred Tumim, then chairman of the educational committee of the National Deaf Children’s Association. Tumin had been introduced to Cued Speech at a seminar in Stockholm and later when working with Dr Cornett himself on a version which could be used for British children. It was from this tape that June began teaching and promoting its advantages to Deaf people, parents, teachers and speech therapists. Convinced of its value, she also sent more than 50 handwritten letters seeking sponsorship. She received only one reply, from Lord Compton, KIDS’ first patron.
It was agreed that the project would be supported for two to three years. The National Centre for Cued Speech in Fulham was opened in 1975 by influential MP and equal rights campaigner Jack Ashley. For the next three years, KIDS offered its full support, providing finance, staffed offices and a meeting room. In 1980, the National Centre for Cued Speech became an independent charity.
However, the demand from increasing numbers of families wanting to learn the technique eventually meant a move from on-site training to local venues across the UK. In 1999, the charity moved from London to Canterbury and then subsequently to Devon, changing its name to the Cued Speech Association the following year. Today, it is still the only charity to offer Cued Speech training on a national basis.
Although June retired last year, she and her husband Chris still remain involved in the Cued Speech Association's work and legacy. The fact that Cued Speech is so widely used and valued today is a testament not just to Dr Cornett's original studies but also the way that KIDS has always encouraged its teachers to be open to new ideas and to be diligent in ensuring they deliver the value and support that families expect from them.